Looking at cultural indicators and the almost superstar status of atheists like Richard Dawkins, it might be easy to conclude that religion is on the way out, while secularism is on the rise.
At least one demographic expert, however, believes otherwise. Author Eric Kaufmann, himself a self-proclaimed secular person, has written a new book called, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century.
Kaufmann’s thesis—and fear—is that religious fundamentalism, not secularism, is the look of the future.
“Dawkins and Hitchens have convinced many Western intellectuals that secularism is the way forward,” he says. “Most people don’t read their books before deciding whether to be religious. Instead, they inherit their faith from their parents, who often inoculate them against the elegant arguments of secularists. And what no one has noticed is that far from declining, the religious are expanding their share of the population.”
Pointing to the global rise in radical Islam, Mormonism, Orthodox Judaism, Roman Catholicism and evangelical Christianity, Kaufmann’s research shows just who is (and who is not) having children, as well as who is doing well at retaining converts and adherents.
If Kaufmann is correct, there is much growth to look forward to for Christians. If another author Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom, also is correct, we actually could be poised to see an explosion of global Christianity.
Jenkins catalogues specifically the rise of Christianity in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Whereas the Christian Faith was synonymous with Europe and then North America for hundreds of years, Jenkins believes it is the South that could be home to the continued expansion of Christianity.
He emphasizes that in these Southward places, the growth of Christianity actually is ground regained by Christians. In the generations that followed the Apostles, it was to Asia and Africa where the Faith first spread. Christian Europe and North America would come in later centuries.
All of these findings show that the Spirit of God is always at work. It also reveals that God often goes where He is most wanted. In other words, if Europe and North America continue to grow cold to Christ, there are plenty of places that will be on fire for Him.
As Oklahoma Baptists, we are honored to be part of this global explosion of Christianity. Our mission partnerships in Mexico and East Asia are bearing much fruit. Prayerfully, we can expect this only to grow.
The demographic and religious analyses also underscore how important it is to transmit the Faith from one generation to the next. Again, Oklahoma Baptists have firm methods in place to ensure this, through programs like Bible Drill, CrossTimbers Mission Adventure Camp and Falls Creek.
The old saying in ministry is, “Christianity is always one generation away from dying out.” This is not entirely accurate, as these global trends show. We do not need a demographer, however, to tell us the Church can and will live on no matter what. We have a promise to cling to from the very One Who cannot lie.
“On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” said Jesus (Matt. 16:18). No power of hell or scheme of man could snuff out the church.
Notice the implication of this promise, though, is that Christians will be an offensive, not defensive force, storming the gates of hell, in hopes of winning people to Christ. And by God’s grace, we will continue to do that, in Oklahoma, and all parts of the globe, as secularism, not Christianity, fades into the background.